Hard times cancel big oil exhibition

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UPDATED: ONS Foundation, which runs Norway’s large oil industry exhibitions in Stavanger, has decided to cancel this year’s gathering of  industry players active on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.  Organizers blamed lower oil prices that have led to harder times in the oil business, but one critic of the event cited other possible reasons as well.

Stavanger has already been hit by the decline in oil prices and now it's lost a major oil industry exhibition as well. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Stavanger has already been hit by the decline in oil prices and now it’s lost a major oil industry exhibition as well. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

One thing was clear: ONS Norway 2015 didn’t attract enough exhibitors. “We’ve done everything we could to get exhibitors, but the situation in the market is unfortunately beyond our control,” Leif Johan Sevland, managing director of ONS, stated on the foundation’s own website Tuesday. The foundation cited “low oil prices, low activity and great uncertainty in the industry” as reasons for the lack of exhibitors registering for the event that had been due to take place in Stavanger from August 17-19.

ONS reported that registration for the smaller, Norwegian-oriented version of the large Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) exhibition “was good until early in the year,” but then it stagnated. “There have also recently been a number of cancellations by companies that are struggling,” the statement from ONS read.

The lack of exhibitors meant that ONS Norway, which attracted 15,000 visitors in 2013, couldn’t create the type of meeting place it believed participants would expect. “We must take the consequences,” Sevland wrote. Another attempt to mount the exhibition will be made next year, to coincide with the large international ONS 2016 that attracted more than 90,000 visitors last year.

Ståle Kyllingstad, an oil service entrepreneur at IKM Gruppen, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Wednesday that he agreed the cancellation is a sign of harder times in the oil business. He claimed he “never had much faith” in the ONS Norway event, though, which was Sevland’s major new project after he took over as boss of ONS in 2012. Kyllingstad doesn’t think August is a good month to hold another industry gathering and it competed against the Offshore Technology Days (OTD), which is held in Stavanger in October. Kyllingstad said that it wasn’t “natural” for his firm, for example, to exhibit twice in Stavanger within three months.

The foundation stressed that the cancellation of ONS Norway will not affect ONS 2016. Sevland claimed bookings for it were good: “We see no lack of interest in it at the present stage,” he stated. The international version of ONS is held every other year, with ONS Norway aimed to be held in between. ONS Norway exhibitors who had registered for this year’s event will now be offered refunds or space at ONS next year.

The cancellation of ONS Norway, which was held for the first time in 2013, is nonetheless a blow to the Stavanger metropolitan area, which welcomed the influx of oil industry officials on expense accounts. Stavanger’s hotel industry has already been suffering since oil prices took a dive last year, and now their vacancy rates look likely to rise to ominous levels. Bars and restaurants will also lose out, along with suppliers that did business with ONS Norway.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund